Former St. Mary’s teachers faced child sex abuse charges in U.S.

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The Japan Times

27 October 2014

By Simon Scott

Catholic Brother and St. Mary’s International School teacher Benoit Lessard, who has been accused of molesting boys on annual school trips to Yamanashi Prefecture, died of cancer in 1980 aged 64. The summer tradition of sixth-grade students from St. Mary’s in Tokyo spending a few days at the Seisen-Ryo complex, aka the KEEP Camp, in the Yamanashi resort area of Kiyosato died with him.

Lessard’s replacement as sixth-grade homeroom teacher was a man named Don Andrews. Andrews, a layman rather than a Catholic Brother like Lessard, had worked under Lessard as a student teacher until the latter’s death, after which Andrews was instated as a full-time teacher.

Although there have been no allegations of sexual abuse made against Andrews by former St. Mary’s students, his record after leaving the school is far from pristine.

Between 1991 and 1992 Andrews was hired as principal of St. Patrick Catholic School in Spokane, Washington. He also taught English literature to seventh- and eighth-grade students.

In 1995 an allegation surfaced that he had sexually abused a 13-year-old male student at the school. He was fired from his position and charged with second-degree child molestation, but his case initially ended in a mistrial in 1996, local media reports and official state documents show. To avoid a retrial on the same charges, Andrews pled guilty to the lesser charge of third-degree assault against a minor in March 1997.

The following month he was sentenced to 90 days incarceration on work release and fined $5,210. He was also ordered not to hold any position of authority over children or frequent areas where children congregate. His Washington state teacher’s license was permanently revoked in October 2000.

A document issued to Andrews by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Washington, goes into detail about the reasons for the revocation and the nature of the crime he was convicted for.

“In March 1995, a 13-year-old male student alleged that while spending the night at your home in Spokane, Washington, you placed your hand inside his pants and underpants and rubbed his penis with your hand causing his penis to become erect,” the document says. “The male child was in the room alone with you at the time.”

When the allegation of sexual abuse surfaced in 1995, Andrews was apparently about to leave the U.S. for Japan with a group of students from St. Patrick Catholic School for a class trip.

Andrews, who is currently employed as center dean at DeVry University in Anaheim, California, worked at St. Mary’s from 1979 to 1984. Saburo Kagei was hired to replace him as sixth-grade teacher in late 1984. Kagei went on to become middle school principal and high school principal before becoming headmaster in 2013.

Andrews was not the only lay teacher at St. Mary’s to face child sexual abuse charges after returning to the United States.

Frank Selas worked as a fourth-grade teacher at St. Mary’s from 1970 till at least 1972. During this time he was also a leader of the boy scouts at the school.

Although there is no evidence that Selas sexually abused students at St. Mary’s, two arrest warrants were issued against him for molesting at least six young boys in 1979 in Louisiana, local media reports show. One of the boys was reportedly hospitalized.

At the time, Selas was working as the host of a local children’s television show in Monroe, Louisiana, where he dressed as a magician called Mr. Wonder. As part of an on-air promotional event, the former St. Mary’s teacher sponsored a camping trip in Louisiana for boys aged between 5 and 15, during which the alleged sexual abuse occurred.

Selas was never tried on these charges, having fled before police were able to apprehend him. He is still a fugitive and his current whereabouts is unknown.

During his time working at St. Mary’s, Selas ran a number of camping trips for St. Mary’s students and other foreign children living in Japan. He was also involved with the Junior Peace Corps in Japan, and in 1971 Selas and two or three other men led a group of more than 30 boys between the ages of 8 and 15, mainly students from Tokyo international schools, including St. Mary’s, on a 29-day tour around India and Southeast Asia.

Headmaster Kagei says he is unable to comment on Selas and Andrews as they worked at the school prior to the start of his tenure as headmaster in 2013.

Your comments and story ideas: community@japantimes.co.jp

4 Responses to Former St. Mary’s teachers faced child sex abuse charges in U.S.

  1. Brent Plasier says:

    I was a student at St Mary’s International School from 1979 until 1985. In 6th grade I had Don Andrews as a teacher. I remember a few strange things that happened and suspected he was acting inappropriately. My mother remembers being told by other mothers not to let me join Boy Scouts as he acted “strangely” around the boys. When we went o KEEP he provided the boys with pornography and I remember him watching us as we looked at the magazines before we went to bed. When I read the story in the Japan Times I wasn’t surprised. Based on my memories I wouldn’t be surprised if there was sexual abuse when he was at St Mary’s. I will be in Tokyo and catch up with old classmates in 2016 and be interested to hear their thoughts.

  2. concerned alumni says:

    Great t o hear your comment Brent. Is there any possibility of alerting them prior to 2016? If there is a victim out there, they will need supporting.

  3. Teja Arboleda says:

    Thank you for sharing. The more we are able to expose the cover-ups, the closer we’ll get to bringing the criminals to justice. Please contact me if you’d like to help us with our documentary on this subject matter. My story was published in Japan Times about a month ago. I am a survivor.

  4. heartbroken alumnus says:

    There was a Guidance Counselor who was known for hugging boys and giving them bear hugs. In some yearbook pictures, he would even be seen being too close to high school boys in the pictures. One can only wonder. That man should have been told about appropriate boundaries with youth. He only will open himself up to charges and accusations.

    He even taught sex education classes as a guest teacher. Notices never went home to the parents about the sex education classes in advance; thank God that these notices are required by law in the USA. Furthermore, there was no option for the students to opt out of the classes. His classes were promoting sex and not giving chastity as an option.

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